Our smartphones are cold, passive devices that usually can’t move autonomously unless they’re falling onto our faces while we’re looking at them in bed. A research team in France is exploring ways to change that by giving our smartphones the ability to interact with us more (via New Scientist). MobiLimb is a robotic finger attachment that plugs in through a smartphone’s Micro USB port, moves using five servo motors, and is powered by an Arduino microcontroller. It can tap the user’s hand in response to phone notifications, be used as a joystick controller, or, with the addition of a little fuzzy sheath accessory, it can turn into a cat tail.
MobiLimb is a research project by PhD student Marc Teyssier and his team across from French universities. Teyssier shares more process photos on his website as well as a detailed explanation for the project. “In the spirit of human augmentation, which aims at overcoming human body limitations by using robotic devices, our approach aims at overcoming mobile device limitations (static, passive, motionless) by using a robotic limb,” he writes.
There’s definitely an unsettling, creepy way in how it moves. Maybe it’s the way it drags its lifeless phone-body across the table to let you know you have a new message. Or maybe it’s the human flesh cover for the finger that turns it into a dismembered digit? I can’t quite place my MobiLimb on it.
Then again, maybe a finger softly stroking your wrist isn’t all that different from those disembodied limbs we like to rest our heads on at the end of a long day to substitute for the loving touch of a boyfriend or girlfriend. Are… are we okay?